Shiitake mushrooms have a wonderful bold, smoky flavor. Some restaurants even serve shiitake burgers – where the beef patty is replaced by the mushroom cap. They’re not as filling as hamburger meat, of course, but they’re very tasty.
What’s great about shiitakes
And shiitakes are good for you. They have been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years because they contain antioxidants and compounds that boost the immune system and lower cholesterol.
They used to be very pricey, but in recent years their cost has come down.
Choosing Shiitake mushrooms
Good news! Dried shiitakes can actually have more flavor than fresh ones, because the sun-drying process brings out the umami flavor – “umami” is a Japanese word that’s best translated as “savoriness”, the flavor that makes meats and cheeses so satisfying. So there’s no need to hunt down fresh shiitakes the day you want to use them. You can buy shiitakes in packages, store them until you’re ready and soak them for about thirty minutes just before you want to cook with them, which makes them potentially more cost-effective than buying fresh ones. Properly stored (see below), they will keep up to a year.
I haven’t seen dried shiitake in any of my local chain grocery stores, but if you have an Asian market nearby, they will likely have them. If you do decide to seek out fresh shiitake, here are some tips for picking good ones:
- They should be firm and plump.
- They should have no slimy spots or wrinkles (that means they’re getting old).
And it’s that simple. Pick your shiitakes according to those rules, and they’ll be great!
Dried shiitakes can be stored in a tightly sealed container and put into the refrigerator or freezer. They will stay fresh for six months to a year.
Put fresh shiitakes in a loosely closed paper bag, and put the bag in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for about a week.
Mushrooms absorb water. This is fine if you’re cleaning dried shiitake prior to soaking, but with fresh ones, too much water will make them soggy. Clean them by wiping them with a damp cloth or paper towel – this will get them clean with minimal water.
Shiitake recipes and serving suggestions
- Saute them with onions and garlic for a wonderful side dish or appetizer.
- Oven-roast shiitakes with garlic and coarse salt. Uses a bit of olive oil to add a little flavor.
- Use cooked shiitakes as a meat substitute in omelets, Asian noodle dishes, and sandwiches. (Side note: they are not a meat replacement in terms of protein and other nutrients, but they are a good flavor replacement.)
- Substitute them in recipes calling for regular button mushrooms, like marsala sauce.
- Slice them julienne and use them to add flavor to meats and side dishes that go well with mushroom.
- Ehow has a great recipe for shiitake mushroom sauce, which is very simple and pure so you get the full shiitake flavor.
- Cookstr even has a roasted shiitake ketchup recipe.